Stow Lake boathouse contract raises questions and eyebrows 

Citing news reports that Recreation and Park Department staff encouraged the new managers of the Stow Lake boathouse to hire a lobbyist, Supervisor John Avalos asked the city attorney to look into whether staff violated ethical guidelines.

Department emails obtained in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the concession’s former operators indicate agency employees encouraged Ortega Family Enterprises to hire a company run by Alex Tourk, an ex-aide of former Mayor Gavin Newsom. Tourk’s business appears to have helped influence the decisions of the Recreation and Park Commission and Board of Supervisors to ratify the staff’s selection of Ortega over the Stow Lake Corp., which had operated the boathouse for more than 60 years.

Ortega was supposed to begin managing the boathouse earlier this year, but because of the lawsuit, Stow Lake Corp. is still managing it. While Avalos acknowledged that lobbying is an age-old part of the political process, he said it was "fishy" that city staffers encouraged such action.

The Stow Lake Corp. also has employed a lobbyist in past bidding procedures, although the company might not have been advised to do so by city employees.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said she was concerned about whether agency officials aided Ortega before an independent panel selected it over the Stow Lake Corp. Agency officials have said that was not the case.

The City Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment, and Rec and Park officials declined to comment on an ongoing lawsuit.

Giorgi scheduled a hearing next week where she plans to hear from all parties involved and decide whether the decision to pick Stow Lake was improper.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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